Classic Review – Persona (1966)


Title – Persona (1966)

Director – Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal)

Cast – Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann

Plot – A young and enthusiastic nurse, Sister Alma (Andersson) is tasked with caring for mute and mentally disturbed actress Elisabet Vogler (Ullmann), a task that is made all the more difficult when Alma starts to sense her own persona molding into that of Elisabet’s.

“The important thing is the effort, not what we achieve”

Review by Eddie on 25/08/2021

The granddaddy of psychological horror/thrillers as well as genuinely unnerving dramas, Ingmar Bergman’s oft-debated and frequently analyzed 1966 black and white oddity Persona is a film that to this day remains a unique and hard to explain experience that no doubt gave birth to a range of directors and features that were born in the wake of this sometimes mesmerizing and sometimes perplexing feature length affair.

A creation that feels as though it directly inspired films such as Black Swan and filmmakers along the lines of David Lynch and Darren Aronofsky, Persona is a an event that allowed Bergman to create an open to interpretation narrative centered around the off-putting friendship/relationship between Bibi Andersson’s kindly nurse Sister Alma and Liv Ullmann’s mute and troubled actress Elisabet Vogler as the famed director explores the very psyches of the human condition and what it means to be ones true self, in a tale that is likely going to take multiple screenings for viewers to come to some form of grips with.

There’s not a lot of incidents or big moments in the film as such, Bergman keeps things relatively low-key as he infuses constant close-ups and dialogue heavy scenarios prevalent throughout the tale of Alma’s increasingly fragile mental state, that appears to be bought on by Elisabet’s strange condition and their seclusion on a sparsely populated island but there’s barely a moment in the film where you feel comfortable as a viewer, consistently on edge and doubting what you are seeing/hearing as you try to make heads and tails about who is who and what is happening to them.

For those that love their films wrapped up in a neat package with answers forthcoming at most stops, Persona will likely feel like a frustrating movie watching experience but watching Bergman’s directional craft at work as both a director and in this case screenwriter is a sight to behold and the performances of both Andersson and Ullmann feel ahead of their time with both actresses delivering what should be considered career best roles portraying tricky characters to bring to life.

Watching these two actresses ply their trades as the fragile inner being of the two women becomes more apparent throughout the films runtime is a real cinematic delight and while the film may not be the “perfect” all-round feature some scholars and reputable film critics laud it to be, there’s little point in trying to denying the impact Persona had on the future of film and its creators as one of the all-time greats created a unique and long-standing product with a formidable legacy following on in its path.

Final Say – 

It may not be easy to fathom or simple to explain in words or thought but Persona is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to key cinematic entries and its tension riddled vibe is always going too be hard to match.

4 sun-baking outings out of 5 

4 responses to “Classic Review – Persona (1966)

  1. I like your review and personal enlightning of what’s at stake in “Persona”. I have to confess that my memory of the film (I saw it once) is so blur, and far away. But I keep in mind a mesmering experience it was when the two faces unite and melt in a veil. That’s a lesson of directing. It requires a rewatch.

    • It is certainly a film that is worth a re-watch or two. I can’t profess to have understood everything it was dealing with after one viewing but I could see its influence on so many films.

      • Speaking for myself, sometimes films that are hardest to understand can be a blessing for how they consequently give us much more freedom to have our own opinions and discussions about them. Worked for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Mulholland Drive and I’m Thinking Of Ending Things. Thanks for introducing me to Persona which I might wish to see sometime.

      • It really does feel like a granddaddy to some of those films you mentioned mate. I know I read a lot about its influence on many films and directors and was great to see what all the fuss was about.

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